Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Last Call

Well you know Mike Huckabee's not a Birther, he's just a lying idiot.

HUCKABEE: I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits --

MALZBERG: Of Winston Churchill.

HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather. 

Hey Huckster?  Dude grew up in Hawaii, spent some time in Indonesia.  Not Kenya.

Read a damn book.

If He Stays There Could Be Trouble...

...if Qaddafi doesn't go there could be double.

Libya could descend into civil war unless Muammar Gaddafi quits, the United States said on Tuesday, its demand for his departure intensifying pressure on the longtime leader after news of Western military preparations.

But Gaddafi remained defiant, dispatching forces to a western border area amid fears that the most violent Arab revolt may grow bloodier and spark a humanitarian crisis.

His son, Saif al-Islam, warned the West against launching any military action to topple Gaddafi, and said the veteran ruler would not step down or go into exile.

"Using force against Libya is not acceptable. There's no reason, but if they want ... we are ready, we are not afraid," he told Sky television, adding: "We live here, we die here."

In Moscow, a Kremlin source suggested Gaddafi, whose authority has unraveled in much of the vast desert country, should step down, calling him a "living political corpse."

In prepared testimony to lawmakers in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "Libya could become a peaceful democracy or it could face protracted civil war."

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Washington would apply pressure on Gaddafi until he bows out, working to stabilize oil prices and avert a humanitarian crisis.

If even the Russians are blunt about hanging you out to dry in public, then you don't have a friend in the world.  The problem is we're not exactly in any position to go in there and get the guy, either.  The question of course is how to get rid of the guy without, you know, making things far, far worse.  Last time an American President faced this question, we chose the "far, far, far worse" option.

But Watson Had Only One Weakness

...Rep. Rush Holt (D-Human Resistance).

There are a lot of smart people on Capitol Hill. But none of them can claim quite the same brainy bragging rights as Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.).

On Monday, Holt beat IBM's super-computer, known as Watson, at a round of "Jeopardy!" at the Liaison Capitol Hill, part of an event organized by IBM. 

For those unfamiliar with Watson, the interactive computer contains some of the the most cutting edge information processors in the world, and it recently beat all-time "Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings on TV.

To be fair, Holt is not your average congressman, especially not when it comes to trivia. He's a five-time "Jeopardy!" champion and a nuclear physicist, to boot. Nevertheless, Holt said the prospect of facing a computerized opponent was daunting.

"I watched a few episodes [of Watson] against Jennings a few weeks ago, and I thought I was in for trouble." Not so. At the end of his round, Holt (right) had 8,600 points to Watson's 6,200. Holt's fellow Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) (left) also competed in the round and scored 1,000 points.

Cassidy and Holt were among the five members of Congress taking part in Monday's bipartisan "Watson vs. Members" tournament. They were joined by Reps. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.)

More Rush Holt saving us from Skynet, please.  Thanks.

I was aware Holt is a nuclear physicist, but was not aware he had ever been on Jeopardy!, much less being a five-time champ.  I respected the guy before, but damn.

Stand back.  He's going to try science.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Dean Baker on the budget:

Finally, it would be nice if the media pointed out what everyone knows to be true: the long-term budget problem is entirely the result of our broken private health care system. If our per person health care costs were the same as what people paid in Canada, Germany or any other wealthy country, we would be looking at enormous budget surpluses (in the "trillions"), not deficits. Of course, this would mean going after the drug companies, the insurance industry, the doctors' lobbies and other health industry groups. Unfortunately, both the politicians and budget reporters are scared to cross these powerful interest groups.

And he's right.  We have the most expensive health care system in the world, and yet whenever that fact is brought up, it immediately becomes SKREEEEEEE DEATH PANELS and we ignore it again.   It's not Medicare and Medicaid that's killing us, it's the for-profit health care system.  The PPACA takes only a small fraction of the approach needed to trim these costs.

No wonder the Republicans are doing everything they can to get rid of it.

What Is The Big Deal, Anyway?

I was standing in line behind a couple of women my age, and they were having a great time scanning the covers of tabloids and sharing gossip.  Their eye settled on an update for Prince William and Kate Middleton, and they were instantly hostile towards them.  "So what if they're going to rule England?  What does that matter to us?"

It's a fair question, I suppose.  We are in the middle of our own crisis, other countries are suffering from poverty and war, what does it matter that Kate and William are blossoming into a new royal couple?  Contrary to our inability to decide why, the fact is that many people are taking an interest in the couple.  Some from my generation think of Diana, and wish the best for her son and that he get to enjoy the fun parts of the royal life that were denied her.  Some find a pleasant distraction amid global catastrophes.  After all, who doesn't enjoy seeing a young couple in love?  And no matter what comes of it, there is no denying that right now the prince and his betrothed are truly in love.

The future king of England has chosen his bride, and she is a commoner who by all counts is a strong but good woman.  Maybe this is the breath of fresh air that the palace needs, to bridge the gap between the royal family and the people outside the walls.

Charlie Sheen: Downward Spiral

It looks like Charlie Sheen is hurling down a path that leads to rock bottom.  The star of Two And A Half Men is now saying, "I'm tired of pretending like I'm not bitching a total freaking rock star from Mars. And people can't figure me out. They can't process me. I don't expect them to. You can't process me with a normal brain."

Well, that's sort of right, at least.

The rumors are swirling without many supporting facts, but it doesn't take a genius to see a man that is struggling to fuel his own descent.  For whatever reason, Charlie Sheen has taken a new enthusiasm for self-destruction and it is going to take a lot more than  home rehab or the coddling of his followers to bring Sheen back to the real world. I hope someone reaches him before he is a headline for dying in an alley somewhere, reeking of cheap hookers and good whiskey.

To The Helicopter, Ben!

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke goes before Congress today to do some 'splainin.

The U.S. Fed chief, who testifies on the Fed's twice-yearly report on monetary policy before the Senate Banking Committee, will probably nod to improvements in the economy while indicating there is still room for monetary policy to help.

One wildcard is the recent surge in oil prices. Bernanke is likely to see that as more of a headwind to growth than the spark for broad-based inflation as long as consumers and businesses do not become gripped by inflationary psychology.

"We expect continued cautious optimism about the durability of the recovery and the need for ongoing monetary policy accommodation," said Michael Gapen, economist at Barclays Capital.

Some of the Fed's more hawkish officials have said they would consider halting bond purchases ahead of the program's June deadline if a recent growth spurt persists. Bernanke has indicated he would prefer to see the plan through.

The Fed chairman, who will offer a repeat performance on Wednesday before a committee in the House of Representatives, is likely to be peppered with questions about the record U.S. budget gap.

To avoid becoming enmeshed in Washington's heated deficit debate, Bernanke will have to do the usual dodging and weaving. He has repeatedly called for long-term budgetary restraint, with a dose of caution about deep short-run spending cuts.

His testimony comes just days ahead of a possible government shutdown over ongoing budget battles, though inklings of a compromise have emerged from Capitol Hill.

Both Democrats and Republicans will be trying to get Helicopter Ben to agree with their view, but don't expect anything different right now out of the Fed.  It's still QE2 and more on deck, and the music will keep playing until somebody takes the baton out of conductor Bernanke's hands and smashes him in the head with it.

Having said that, don't expect Republicans to vilify Bernanke either...unless a Paul is around.

Where Are The Jobs, OJ?

Another day, another economic report indicates that Republican budget cuts would cost the economy hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The Republican plan to cut government spending by more than $60 billion dollars will cost the unemployment rate dearly, according to a new report from Moody's Analytics.

According to Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi -- who the Washington Post reports "has advised both political parties" -- Republican plans to slash government spending will impact the GDP in such a way that would eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs this year and the next.
From the report:
The House Republicans' proposal would reduce 2011 real GDP growth by 0.5% and 2012 growth by 0.2 percentage points This would mean some 400,000 fewer jobs created by the end of 2011 and 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2012.
Republicans were nonplussed by the findings.

"The fact that a relentless cheerleader for the failed 'stimulus' -- which the Democrats who run Washington claimed would keep unemployment below 8 percent -- refuses to understand that ending the spending binge will help the private sector create jobs is sad, but not surprising," a spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner told Bloomberg.

To recap, Orange Julius knows more about the private sector economy than Mark Zandi because Zandi actually remembered the stimulus saved or created a couple million jobs.  What Republicans don't want to talk about is the 700,000 jobs that their budget cuts would cost between now and the next election and the growing consensus from the private sector that the Republicans are about to blow a hole in the economy on purpose, presumably to try to blame Obama and win in 2012.

Enacting a budget plan that would force the President into either cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs and sinking the GDP or shutting the government down (effectively causing the same thing, only in a much shorter time period) seems like a pretty good way to do it, eh?

Precisely what they are counting on.  So they attack Zandi's opinion on the stimulus instead of dealing with his company's conclusion that Republicans will put hundreds of thousands out of work on purpose.

And instead of creating jobs right now, Boehner and company are saying that the national debt is "immoral", but putting that many Americans out of work to do nothing to reduce it?  That's perfectly "moral" in the GOP playbook.

Where's the jobs, OJ?

[UPDATE]  It's not just Boehner who wants to put you out of work for your own good.

In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep today, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) was asked if budget cuts should still go forward, even if they would result in widespread job loss, and replied “yes”:
INSKEEP: I want to ask something that a lot of people are confronting right now, as they deal with the federal deficit as well as state and local deficits that need to be closed. Are budget cuts — government budget cuts — worth it, even if they end up seriously costing a lot of jobs right now?
DANIELS: The answer is yes.

Cut taxes for the wealthy, cut jobs for everyone else. Vote Republican!

Look For The Union Scapegoat Label, Part 3

Yet another poll shows a surprising majority of Americans continue to back Wisconsin's public unions over Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Governors in both parties have been making the case that public workers are either overpaid or have overly generous health and pension benefits. But 61 percent of those polled — including just over half of Republicans — said they thought the salaries and benefits of most public employees were either “about right” or “too low” for the work they do.

When it came to one of the most debated, and expensive, benefits that many government workers enjoy but private sector workers do not — the ability to retire early, and begin collecting pension checks — Americans were closely divided. Forty-nine percent said police officers and firefighters should be able to retire and begin receiving pension checks even if they are in their 40s or 50s; 44 percent said they should have to be older.

There was a similar divide on whether teachers should be able to retire and draw pensions before they are 65.

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Feb. 24-27 with 984 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all adults. Of those surveyed, 20 percent said there was a union member in their household, and 25 percent said there was a public employee in their household. 

Republicans, particularly Scott Walker, are in real trouble here.  People realize that if public unions are destroyed and unions in general are wiped out, all workers' rights are vulnerable.  Most of all, they realize that Republicans are doing everything they can to get Americans fighting over scraps while corporate fat cats take the lion's share of profits.   When ExxonMobil is making the kind of quarterly profits that could easily close entire biennial state budget gaps,  that has people wondering.

They remember that the Bush tax cuts have been in place for years now, and unemployment is up and wages are stagnant if not falling.  They're wondering where the payoff is.  We cut taxes on the ultra-rich.  Their incomes quadrupled adjusted for inflation from 1993 to 2007.  The top 400 income earners in the country made $85 billion in 2007...the same as the bottom 50% of American workers combined.

And yet we're supposed to believe that unions are ruining the country.  We're not buying it.  We're being asked to sacrifice our lives to our feudal corporate masters, and in return we get asked to make more sacrifices.  We're told that people like you and me have to take cuts.  We're told that my generation and younger have to realize there will be no Social Security or Medicare when we're allowed to retire in our 70's...maybe then if at all...and told to take wage and health care benefit cuts now.

We work for companies that know they can do anything they want because of "right-to-work" laws, that we can be fired for any reason that isn't expressly discriminatory...and even then the burden of proof is on us.  We're told that we have to give up overtime pay for comp time in order to "help" business owners. We're already serfs.

At least somebody is finally standing up, and by standing up I mean for the right ideals and against the right people, not idiotic carping over "the size of government".

Americans are figuring this out.


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